Girl, Hit By Train

Girl, Hit By Train

There's a small road deep in the Heart of Dixie that snakes its way through the fog every morning and mosquitoes every night. It’s a cruise-by-day-shiver-by-night kind of road. Perhaps the shiver comes as a warning to those distracted by butterflies dancing in the sunlight or the neon moon shining its spotlight on every twist and turn. For on this back road, one often hears a train heaving its way through the hills and valleys, disrupting the dance of butterflies and daring the moon to keep up as it mindlessly charges on.  Locals in this area know the dangers of these calm country tracks and they show great respect at each crossing. One can never be too careful because, getting hit by a train, who could survive that?

As the sun began to set on an early Spring day, Sonnie and her boyfriend decided to make their way to the local YMCA for an evening sweat session. That afternoon, Sonnie was all jitters and excitement. She had just returned home from a three-month job in Houston, successfully introduced her boyfriend to her dad, and was ecstatic to be back with her family and friends. In that moment, life was good and for the first time in a long time, Sonnie was smiling.

Mesmerized by the sky as it turned that certain shade of red intimately known in the Deep South, country tunes humming in the background, there they were, just two (very) young lovebirds cruising the back roads. As they approached the neighborhood railroad crossing, they failed to notice the blinking lights, and continued making their way across the track. Sonnie jovially chatted on, both oblivious to the train barreling down on her back.

As the two beasts of metal clashed together, screams, screeches and sparks filled the quiet country air.  The battle was over faster than it had begun. The screeching was replaced by motionless silence, daunting twirls of smoke, and the pungent odor of burning rubber and steaming metal. In the blink of an eye, Sonnie’s life changed forever.

It was roughly twenty minutes before Sonnie was found lying eerily unmoving next to the track.  She was life-flighted to a local trauma center where she was triaged and treated for countless injuries including, a traumatic brain injury, broken pelvis, broken back, broken jaw and two collapsed lungs. She would remain in ICU for four weeks in a drug-induced coma. Her boyfriend also was ejected on impact and suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in grave condition. Ultimately, his injuries were too severe and approximately seven days after the accident, he joined the angels in Heaven. 

Once stable enough for transport, Sonnie was moved to the Shepherd Center, a brain and spinal cord injury rehabilitation facility in Atlanta, Georgia, where she underwent roughly four months of vigorous physical and cognitive therapy. Each day presented a new challenge for Sonnie, as she had to “re-learn life” at the most elementary level - colors, shapes, food, how to eat, and how to dress were just a few of the basics. 

Miraculously, Sonnie was able to recognize her family and a few close friends. But, she couldn’t remember the accident or her boyfriend.  Despite her therapist’s and family’s best efforts to jog her memory, she couldn’t remember anything about that fateful day. What was the most frustrating for Sonnie in the early days of recovery was the feeling that she was supposed to remember. She knew it was important; she watched her family exchange worried glances every time she shook her head no, but there was only blank space around the accident and the mention of his name.

Recovery time for injuries like Sonnie’s vary and there is no magic potion for evoking memories or accelerating the process. However, Sonnie’s condition rapidly improved and she was transferred to the outpatient facility where she would continue therapy at an advanced pace. In spite of her considerable progression, Sonnie had grown more anxious and frustrated with each (unsuccessfully hidden) pained look on her loved ones’ faces. Her love for family and her tenacious will to live forced Sonnie to face her fears and lean all in to God and, late one night in her hospital bed, she again surrendered her heart to His.

It was in that moment Sonnie was gifted a spiritual vision. She watched as her life passed before her eyes. All the mistakes and unruly shenanigans, all those times when she lashed out at God in anger, and those moments when she was simply living at face value. It was in this vision that Sonnie could see what she hadn’t seen in real time. Her guardian angel was right by her side through all those moments, watching and waiting. Then the voice came. “Don’t you see, I never left you. But, I want you to start doing things MY way. Soon you’ll understand I want the best for you, but it’s not your way anymore, it’s Mine. Now, WAKE UP.”
The next thing Sonnie recalls is peering into her perplexed parents' faces and reciting Jeremiah 29 verbatim.

For I know the plans I have for you…
plans to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future…

At that time, Sonnie didn’t know the difference between apples and oranges, yet with her family and friends present, she methodically recited one of God’s most faithful promises over and over until the room filled with tears.

As if Sonnie’s story thus far isn’t miraculous enough, there’s more.

You see, Sonnie lost her two older sisters before she was but a sweet thirteen. The twins, Laura and Lisa, had been born prematurely with brain bleeds. Lisa passed away before Sonnie was born. Laura, however, passed away when Sonnie was in the 8th grade. At a young age, Sonnie understood that she eventually would lose her sister, and while this awareness helped her cope with her family’s challenges, it didn’t prepare her for the pain of losing someone she loved so dearly.  So, after Laura’s death, Sonnie spent the following ten years in an angry bubble filled with self-righteous defiance and a dismissive attitude toward God.

It was only a few weeks before the accident, that Sonnie was still in that bubble. Working out of town, homesick, stressing over her future and tired of running from the pain and grief of the past. She had grown weary from sadness and felt as though she was crumpling under the weight of her anger. In a moment of exasperated and lonesome misery, she shouted at God, If you are Real, if you are who you say you are, MAKE IT VISIBLE, SHOW ME!

Little did Sonnie know, it would be this declaration of despair when her soul cried out to Heaven that would ultimately be the catalyst for her greatest testament to God’s merciful, unwavering, and reckless love.   

Sonnie’s scars are her testimony to the miraculous {im}possible, to faith, to love, to a very real God. Her scars are reminders to us all that there is simply no evil, no sadness, no brokenness or despair that God’s love cannot overcome. No one can say for sure why this tragedy occurred. The truth is, we won’t know until God reveals all answers one day. What we do know is God promised us in Romans 8:28 that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Such a powerful reminder for believers, and a show of faith to non-believers, that because suffering isn’t good, it simply isn’t from God. Because with God, all things are possible, and He can and will (if you let Him) use any pain and suffering to accomplish a greater good.

What is impossible is not noticing Sonnie’s scars. The instant you meet her, you know this is a girl who knows how to fight. This is a girl who loves others hard and lives for the Highest. She no longer shies away from telling her story, nor is she bothered when people dismiss her “forgetfulness” with an oh, she’s just that girl, hit by a train. She takes full advantage of every opportunity to share the news of God’s unfailing grace. Proudly, she proclaims, Yes, I am that girl, hit by a train. That’s how big my God is!

Although it’s been a long road to recovery, Sonnie has now regained 100% of her physical abilities. She currently works as a Cardiovascular Sonographer, is blessed with an amazing husband and they are living their best life surrounded by those they love the most. Even though she still struggles with her memory, there is One that has remained in the forefront of her mind and completely consumes her heart.

When asked the message she wants to speak, Sonnie knowingly smiled and replied:
Be humble. Just give it to God, whatever your ‘it’ is. Life’s so much easier when you know God’s got you. We are not in control. I had to get hit by a train, literally, to understand that. But, if I had to go through it all over again to help just one, I would. If just one more person will be in Heaven because of me, I’m all in.


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Runner's Trots & Rumors

Runner's Trots & Rumors